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Workers’ Comp and COVID-19: Where’s the Line?

Workers’ compensation, also known as workers’ comp, has been around for over 100 years. It’s a big part of workers’ rights and a fundamental principle of unionization. Workers’ comp gives protections to workers who are hurt while on the job, and gives support for unionized workers across the nation. 

Today, however, the line between workers’ compensation and COVID-19 has become blurred. The legal answer to the question of disease compensation may shock you.

The History of Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ comp has been around since the late 19th century. Workers’ unions in free societies all over the planet began to recognize the gross mistreatment of workers in the newly-industrialized world. Because of the increase in factory work and physically demanding labor, blue-collar workers were often injured on the job. 

Before worker’s compensation laws, these unfortunate workers would have quickly lost their way of life with no repercussion to their employers. This necessitated what was known as the Sickness and Accident Laws of 1884, which would ultimately become our workers’ comp laws today.

All of the most current legal requirements for worker’s comp benefits in the workplace in Florida can be found here. In summation, workers’ compensation for Florida residents looks like this:

  • Access to a primary care physician or doctor through workplace insurance
  • Access to all authorized medical procedures (hospital visits, surgeries, etc.)
  • Reimbursement for miles traveled between medical visits
  • Monetary compensation for work missed (tables for which can be found here)
  • Monetary benefits for workplace-related death (funeral costs, etc.)

As a Florida resident, you have the right to appeal to a lawyer or similar representative to file workplace injury claims against your employer. This can be in regard to workplace injury that was ignored, or expenses that were not reimbursed.

Workers’ Comp and COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic has made many people unable to work for some period of time (likely two weeks). One might think that workers’ comp would be the solution, given illnesses contracted at work would be workplace-related injuries. However, most won’t qualify for the protections of workers’ comp if they’re unable to work due to the Coronavirus.

If you contracted COVID-19 at work, and missed work because of it, it’s unlikely that you qualify for workers’ comp. In order to qualify in the state of Florida, both the following criteria must be met:

  • You work a job that is high-risk for disease contraction (frontline caretakers, hospital personnel, etc.)
  • Proof you contracted the disease as a consequence of work

For most Florida workers, workers’ comp won’t cover COVID-19 contraction if they work a job without prolonged exposure to others. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a list containing the complete rundown of workers’ comp criteria and coverage

There is, at least, potential coverage for testing and caretaking via the CARES Act if workers’ comp doesn’t cover the necessary testing. Additionally, many places allow for work from home in the worst case of positive results without workers’ comp coverage.

What If I Don’t Qualify for Workers’ Comp?

If you don’t qualify for workers’ comp and you cannot work from home, remember that safety is the highest priority. Take time to quarantine yourself and fully recover before attempting to get working again. There are numerous resources available for workers in the state of Florida. These include Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through the CARES Act.

You may qualify for a free Coronavirus test from your insurance carrier or the CARES Act. If worst comes to worst, there is an appeal system for denied assistance filings. Exhaust your resources at home while staying safe and quarantined.

Although there may not be a rich source of wage protections for the average Coronavirus case, there are steps you can take to preserve wages while quarantined. If Worker’s Compensation won’t cover your time out, seek assistance through other avenues like UI, PUA, and the CARES Act benefits. Above all, however, stay safe and considerate of others on your road to recovery if you ever do unfortunately contract the disease.

Contact a Florida Unpaid Wages Attorney

If you feel that your employer has withheld your wages due to COVID-19 or another reason, give us a call. You may be entitled to past wages and liquidated damages. Brooks Law Group is experienced in handling unpaid wage cases on behalf of employees who are illegally deprived of compensation. While we aren’t workers’ compensation attorneys, we do specialize in these cases, and we offer a free initial consultation. Call us today at 1-800-LAW-3030 or contact us online.

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